Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Retort About Augusta's Missing Roars

Doug Ferguson of the AP decides to play devil's advocate and ask why so many people are saying that the Masters is not the same anymore:

For those who believe the excitement at the Masters is forever gone because of changes to Augusta National, there are still a few questions to consider.

How to explain 2003, two years after the first big overhaul, when Len Mattiace only needed a par on the 18th hole to shoot 64 and win the Masters? He made bogey and lost in a playoff to Mike Weir.

What about 2004, when Phil Mickelson birdied five of the last seven holes to beat Ernie Els by one shot?

In 2005, Tiger Woods tied a course record by making seven straight birdies in the middle of the third round, the final four on Sunday morning because of rain delays. He went on to beat Chris DiMarco in a playoff after both finished at 12-under 276.

And for a course that supposedly had gone silent, Trevor Immelman was at 11-under 205 going into the final round. One has to go back to 2001 to find a lower score for the 54-hole leader, when Woods was at 12-under 204 and on his way to a fourth straight major. That was the year before the first dose of lengthening.

Could it be that one reason Immelman closed with a 75—and this is just a guess—was the wind? According to the weather service, the wind was blowing 16 mph and gusting to 26 mph when the final group teed off.
My answers are pretty simple.

In 2003, scoring was ok because of rain to keep the course from playing as firm as it could with 2002 lengthening. The same thing in 2005, which actually allowed Woods to go on his tear on Sunday in the first place. 2004 is almost inexplicable, though there was light rain during the time leading up to the event.

Basically, weather does matter at Augusta National. But, when the weather is not favorable to scoring - anything short of wet - then the patrons and observers are in store for a tougher Masters, which is what they do not want to see.

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